The meaning of marriage, again

Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing the New York legislature to legalize “gay marriage.” Once again I repeat the arguments in defense of real marriage and its meaning. Here’s a sample of comments made in a comment thread elsewhere:

Legalizing “gay marriage” is the same as legalizing 2+2=5 and then requiring people to pretend it’s true.

It’s not just an attack on the meaning of marriage; it’s an attack on meaning itself.


[Someone else in the thread tells me to “get over it.” I respond.]

Get over it, you say? Get over this:

Marriage is something, not simply anything you want it to be. It is the social institution that stabilizes the natural biological opposition and complementarity of the two sexes — one man, one woman. It has nothing to do with two people of the same sex.

There are crucial reasons why that meaning should not be monkeyed with. Among them is that marriage sits at the moral foundation of the family and of society, and once you open one door to make marriage about something that it is not, then you effectively open many doors.

Debauching the meaning of marriage is about as awful a thing as you can do to posterity as can be done.

I would implore those gay individuals who surely do understand this to find their voices and oppose those who would do this in their name.


[Another person in the thread tells me that polygamy was once legal in the U.S., and that it was illegal for interracial couples to marry. I respond.]

You are confused. Polygamy was never a standard for marriage in Western civilization. And the restrictions on race were about race, not marriage. A man and a woman of different racial groups getting married does not change the meaning of marriage.

And the people outside of the gay community who are pushing “gay marriage” have made it clear that they will hardly stop there. This has already happened in Sweden and marriage itself has started to disappear there because it no longer means anything.

The pretense that this issue is about glib claims on equality ritually ignores the real issue, which is that the actual meaning and purpose of marriage are at the moral foundation of family and society.

That is the inescapable reality, a reality based in human biology itself.


[Same person insists that polygamy was not illegal in the U.S. until 1862. I respond.]

Polygamy was not a federal crime until 1862. That doesn’t mean that it was legal in the states. “The states make the law.” The everyday affairs of American society are not generally governed by federal law, but by state law. That’s the system of “dual sovereignty” that we call federalism.

The meaning and purpose of marriage is about the opposition and complementarity of the two sexes, one man, one woman. Procreation is an element of that, but the foundation is in the biology suggested by “opposition and complementarity.” I suppose that the hardest thing to see is what is most obvious, right there in front of you.

If the “one man, one woman” standard is done away with, however, all the standards are open to challenge. Marriage becomes meaningless.

And, no, I would not agree with your suggestion about the “European model” [i.e., having a civil meaning that is distinct from the religious meaning of marriage], first because that model is inherently unstable and second because real marriage is a vital social institution and not just a matter of religion. Marriage conforms to the biological reality in nature and optimizes that in monogamy.

For those who wish to live in alternative relationships we have broad tolerance, but tolerance does not mean institutionalization, and certainly marriage should not be used for that purpose.


[More: Same person makes more of the usual pleas and objections: “but why can’t two people who love each other”; divorce is worse; why is monogamy optimal, etc.]

Monogamy optimizes the marriage commitment by making the man and the woman exclusively obligated to one another and reinforces the dignity of each, i.e., they are not merely one of several.

Marriage is about more, obviously, than two people loving each other. All sorts of combinations of two people might love each other, but marriage is about one man and one woman entering into a commitment based in their natural opposition and complementarity. And that arrangement is a fundamental social institution, the meaning of which is ignored or tampered with at great peril.

Divorce is indeed, by definition, harmful to marriage. Its impact on families and society is severe. But one does not use the tragedy of divorce as an excuse to inflict more damage on the institution of marriage. And “gay marriage” would inflict incalculable damage, not the least by opening many more doors that would render marriage meaningless.

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